The Musket That Fired the Shot Heard ‘Round the World

Munroe musket

Meeting Hall at the Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Worcester, Massachusetts,  home to Ebenezer Munroe’s musket.

When Ebenezer Munroe awoke on his 23rd birthday, he probably couldn’t have imagined that his musket would be the one to fire “the shot heard ‘round the world,” or that it would end up in the home of a Loyalist judge, under the care of the Daughters of the American Revolution, in a city whose claim to fame is that they effectively ended British rule without firing a single shot.

But it’s true.

On this particular day I was sitting alone in the meeting hall of the Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter house, looking up at Ebenezer’s musket.  I had just mounted it above the fireplace.  I stared at it in awed silence, as though I were viewing the painting of a master in some cathedral . . . but this was more than a work of art.

It had taken me a long time to realize the significance of this musket.   When I first saw it in our collection, I thought, “oh how nice.  We’ve got a musket from the Battle of Lexington.” At the time, I wasn’t yet familiar with the story of this unassumingly presented artifact, which had been stored out-of-sight in a wooden coffin, along with a 3-ring binder stuffed haphazardly with handwritten notes, pictures, and newspaper clippings.  Once I took the time to read through the jumbled binder, I realized that Ebenezer’s musket wasn’t just “a musket,”  it was “THE musket,” and the weight of that recognition both thrilled me and frightened me, and made my heart pound.

Ebenezer Munroe (19 Apr 1752 – 25 May 1825) of Lexington, later of Ashburnham, was a yeoman farmer and militia corporal who answered the call to arms on April 19, 1775.   The following is an excerpt from his Deposition, (given on April 2, 1825 less than two months before his death) regarding the events of that day:

“Some of our men went into the meeting-house, where the town’s powder was kept, for the purpose of replenishing their stock of ammunition. When the regulars had arrived within eighty or one hundred rods, they, hearing our drum beat, halted, charged their guns, and doubled their ranks, and marched up at quick step. Capt. Parker ordered his men to stand their ground, and not to molest the regulars, unless they meddled with us. The British troops came up directly in our front. The commanding officer advanced within a few rods of us, and exclaimed, ‘Disperse, you damned rebels! you dogs, run!—Rush on my boys!’ and fired his pistol. The fire from their front ranks soon followed. After the first fire, I received a wound in my arm, and then, as I turned to run, I discharged my gun into the main body of the enemy. As I fired, my face being toward them, one ball cut off a part of one of my ear-locks, which was then pinned up. Another ball passed between my arm and my body, and just marked my clothes. The first fire of the British was regular; after that, they fired promiscuously. . . . When I fired, I perfectly well recollect of taking aim at the regulars. The smoke, however, prevented my being able to see many of them . . . I did not hear Captain Parker’s orders to his company to disperse . . .the balls flew so thick, I thought that there was no chance for escape, and that I might as well fire my gun as stand still and do nothing . . .”

After Ebenezer’s death in 1825, his musket was passed down through the generations,  until eventually it was sold to antique gun collector Granville Rideout of Ashburnham in the summer of 1950 for four dollars.   According to Granville, the musket had been left untouched in the Munroe family attic for many, many years, and it was still loaded when he bought it.

Granville kept the musket safe for over 50 years, while still managing to give it “public appearances” at local historical societies and museums.   On April 19, 1975, he rode on horseback to the reenactment on the Battle Green in Lexington, where Ebenezer’s musket was fired once more.

Granville Rideout 1975.jpg

Granville Rideout with Ebenezer Munroe’s musket, riding to Lexington Battle Green on April 19, 1975.

As I read through the binder, I could tell that Granville agonized over finding a final resting place for Ebenezer’s musket. He was worried that it would fall into the hands of a private collector and never be seen again.  In 2003, two years before his death, he gifted the musket to the Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, on the condition that it be displayed and publicized, and be used to educate the youth about the founding of the United States of America.

If you would like to view Ebenezer Munroe’s musket, you can visit the Col. Timothy Bigelow Chapter House at 140 Lincoln Street in Worcester, Massachusetts during our summer tour season.   The dates are June 11, July 9, August 13, September 10, and October 8 and the hours are 1-4pm.  For more information or to schedule a group tour, you can contact us at col.timothybigelowchapter@gmail.com.  We are also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/col.timothybigelowdar/.

Postscript:  The title of this blog is in reference to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem “Concord Hymn,” in which he writes: 

“Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.”

The reference is not a claim to the literal first shot of that battle, but rather a symbol of the American spirit,  their willingness to stake their lives for freedom.  Was Emerson talking about a specific shot, or was it a metaphor for that moment when the colonists crossed the threshold from yearning into action?  As a farmer who was present and whose deposition (and the deposition of others) confirms that he was one of the first ones to return fire on that historic day, Ebenezer Munroe did indeed fire a “shot heard round the world.”  

 

Advertisements

Rooms With a 125 Year View

If the Oaks could talk, she would have a lot to say.  She was born in 1774 to loyalist Judge Timothy Paine (1730 – 1793) of Worcester, Massachusetts.  She housed soldiers during the Revolution.  She was home to Dr. William Paine (1750 – 1833) who is credited with opening Worcester’s first apothecary and was one of the founding fathers of the American Antiquarian Society.    The Oaks was subsequently home to William’s son, Frederick William Paine (1788 – 1869) who served his community as representative to the General Court, selectman, and community assessor.  He was a perpetual scholar and gave generously to the American Antiquarian Society’s library. When Frederick’s widow died in 1892, the Oaks almost died along with her.  She stood abandoned for over 20 years until the Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution saw her historical value and breathed life back into her rooms.  The Oaks made her debut as a tea house in 1914.  She served as the workplace for the Betsy Ross Squad during World War I.  She was a local Red Cross headquarters during World War II.  She has been the chapter house for 100 years of Daughters with the desire to preserve and promote local history, and to honor and remember soldiers of all generations. Before the Oaks was sealed up for her two-decade slumber through the turn of the 20th century, someone had the foresight to photograph some of her rooms.  The black and white photos were taken around 1890, and the ones in color were taken from the same angle on an ordinary day in January of 2015.

Small dining room in 1890.  This room originally served as the kitchen when the house was constructed in the late 1700s.

The small dining room in 1890. This room originally served as the kitchen when the house was constructed in the late 1700s.

The small dining room in 2015, which was originally  the kitchen in the 1700s.

The small dining room in 2015, which was originally the kitchen in the 1700s. The table seen here knew John Adams as a dinner guest back in the day. The table can be seen in the next photo in the large dining room in 1890.

Dining room in 1890.

The large dining room in 1890.

The large dining room in 2015, which also serves as the boardroom for the Col. Timothy Bigelow chapter.

The large dining room in 2015, which also serves as the boardroom for the Col. Timothy Bigelow chapter.

Parlor in 1890.

The parlor in 1890.

The parlor in 2015.

The parlor in 2015.

Bedroom in 1890.

The bedroom in 1890.

Bedroom in 2015.

The bedroom in 2015.

Looking into the library in 1890.

Looking into the library in 1890.

Looking into the library in 2015.

Looking into the library in 2015.

Inside the library in 1890.

Inside the library in 1890.

Inside the library in 2015.

Inside the library in 2015.

The Daughters’ Tea Room

The early morning hours are the sweetest of all to me.  Everything just seems so tranquil and mystical . . . perhaps because most of the world is still asleep, and all those bustling souls are reaching beyond the constraints of the waking world.  The quiet calm that remains is the time when history speaks and the voices of the past can be heard.

I took advantage of the stillness this cold Saturday morning and slipped into the Oaks before the rest of the Daughters arrived. As the Chapter Historian, I feel a responsibility not only to document the activities of the Oaks current members, but also to reveal the experiences of those who came before us, experiences that have since been swept over in the a current of time and dust.

I stood in the middle of the room and closed my eyes.  Silence.  What will you have me write about today.  Tell me what you want me to say.  I heard the front door abruptly creak, rattling against its lock, and then the doorbell rang.  No time.   My eyes flew open and I reached impulsively for a scrapbook from the top shelf.

Tea room article from 1914

Tea room article from 1914

COL. TIMOTHY BIGELOW CHAPTER, D.A.R.,

OPENS TEAROOM IN OLD PAINE HOMESTEAD

August 2, 1914

Gray and weatherbeaten, sheltered by the same oaks and maples which have stood guard about it for a century and a half, stands the old Paine house on Lincoln street, but no longer will the passerby have occasion to remark as has been the case so long: “What a pity that such a place should be left empty and allowed to go to ruin!”

Yesterday marked the reinstating of its activities.  The Paine estate, or The Oaks as it was known in its early days and as it is to be called, was purchased a short time ago by Col. Timothy Bigelow chapter, D.A.R., and yesterday a tearoom was opened there, to be conducted by the members through the summer.

For seven or eight weeks, repairs and improvements have been going on, and painters, paperhangers and plumbers have been busy about the place, not to mention many of the chapter members who have worked there daily, cleaning, scrubbing and polishing walls, floors, mantels and furniture.  The entire lower floor is now in splendid condition and presents a most attractive and inviting appearance to the visitor.

Except in the library and parlor to the right and left of the entrance from the Lincoln-street side, and in the center hall which runs the entire length of the house, tea tables have been set in readiness yesterday for those who desired refreshment.  From 2 o’clock, the opening hour, chapter members were kept busy receiving those who came to visit the old mansion with its many interesting contents, and to sample the many good things which were served.

Lovers of antique furniture will wish to see the immense old mahogany secretary which stands in the parlor.  The secretary is about nine feet high and measures about the same width.  It is an interesting and complicated piece of furniture with its numerous shelves, drawers, and cupboards.

It is the property of Mrs. Dora Trumbull Roberts, a relative of the Paine family who makes her home in Stamford, Ct., when she is not stopping at the Standish hotel in Worcester.  Mrs. Roberts has had the secretary and put in excellent repair and has loaned it to the D.A.R. in their new home.

The Paine family portraits in the parlor also command attention from visitors, as well as the excellent reproductions of some of Rembrandt’s and Titan’s masterpieces which may be seen in one of the adjoining rooms.  The red upholstered mahogany davenport, a slat-backed chippendale chair, the parlor cricket and other mahogany furniture were all among the original furnishings of the Paine house, as well as the tall bookcases in the library, and smaller articles, including jardinieres and a number of plates and other dishes.  Everything from floor to ceiling is clean and fresh.

The wall paper in the hall is a soft gray and is a clever reproduction of an old-fashioned paper.  The  woodwork throughout is ivory-white, and that, with the white shades at the paint 12-paned windows, helps wonderfully in brightening the old house.  A circular staircase, which leads from the middle of the hall to the upper story attracted much attention from visitors yesterday who commented upon its (illegible).

The upper hall is completed and a modern bathroom has been installed but the rest of the rooms are yet to be (illegible).  The Junior daughters of the chapter are to have two rooms upstairs and the formal opening of (illegible) in early October will show them completed as well as the remaining upper rooms and the auditorium.

The outside of the house and fence surrounding the grounds will be installed.  The old hot air furnace has been removed and a steam heater will take its place.

What was formerly the wine cellar is now stacked with fire wood, and judging by the amount of the huge logs in the back of the house, the chapter members will not suffer from cold this winter, even should they only make fire in the fireplaces.  The fireplaces were filled yesterday with masses of greenery artistically arranged.  Gay colored nasturtiums brightened the pleasant rooms, and vied with sweet peas, bachelor buttons and petunias on the tea tables.

The service used by the chapter is blue Japanese china in an old-fashioned design which seems entirely suitable in the old house.  Twenty-four tables were in use yesterday, some of which had been placed on the veranda and others attractive set on the lawn under the widespread branches of the trees.

Linen covers for these tables have been sewn and presented to the chapter by one of the members, Miss Mary E. Whiting.  In one corner of each cover Miss Whiting has embroidered the D.A.R. anagram in blue, which matches the china.

The tables were arranged for parties of four, six or more.  Hot or iced tea was served with delicious cinnamon toast, cream cheese, and orange marmalade.  Those who wished could also have ice-cream served in tall glasses with cakes of many kinds, dainty and homemade.

Mrs. William Reed presided in the kitchen, assisted by members of this committee: Mrs. W.R. Spaulding, Mrs. Jessie B. Fowler, Miss Mary E. Whiting, Mrs. Theodore D. Martin and Miss Anna Ballard.  They were helped in serving at the tables by Misses Bertha C. Mann, Florence Carey and Ethel Webb.

Chapter members were encouraged by the number of visitors to the tearoom yesterday, and there is no doubt that it will be a success when automobilists and other passersby learn of this delightful spot where they may rest a while and refresh themselves at a moderate price.

The D.A.R. may well be proud and happy in the possession of its new home, and is not alone in rejoicing over its purchase, for many Worcester persons interested in the preservation of old homesteads are delighted to think that the future of The Oaks is assured for a long time to come.

The Acquisition of the Oaks

photo-4

As told by a voice from the past:

“In 1913, the Col. Timothy Bigelow Chapter, D.A.R. was holding its meetings in the Woman’s Club building.  The room was entirely adequate as to size, for our membership was then about 170, with many living in other cities, as at the present time.

At that time, this Paine property was for sale and several members of the Chapter thought it would be wise to purchase it and have a permanent home for the organization and an object to work for.

The house was colonial commenced before the Revolution but was not finished until 1794.  There were great possibilities in acquiring such a large holding near the center of the city and the terms of purchase were more than favorable.

For five years, we were to pay no interest on the $13,500, the price of the estate. During that time we could be repairing the house and put the grounds, a perfect tangle of underbrush, in condition to house a strong, patriotic group of earnest women, bent upon providing a home, not only for themselves, but for generations to come.

At the first proposal to purchase the property, a strong opposition was aroused.  Members were aghast at the idea of assuming such a burden, and promptly voted the measure down, saying we were crazy to even think of it.

Nothing daunted, the matter was brought up at the next meeting for discussion, and at that time the vote to purchase the property was successful — some members resigning on that account.

Then the work began and it was work.

The grounds were covered with knee-high and waist-high grass, weeds, shrubs and small trees.  The house, not having been occupied for twenty-five years,  and the grounds having had no care, you can imagine the conditions then existing.  It had evidently served as a public dumping-ground, for loads upon loads were taken away.  And the interior of the house! The beds were made, but evidently  had served as nesting places for squirrels and cats.  The paper hung in strips from the walls and it seemed impossible to ever remove the damp moldy odor which permeated the whole house.

The stairs at the back led to a long narrow hall, with small bedrooms opening out to the north.  That is the section where the greatest change has been made, for the partitions were removed and the the result was the attractive hall where we hold our gatherings.

A heating plant, the gift of a brother of one of our members, was installed.

Donning old dresses and aprons, energetic members removed the old paper from the walls —  layer upon layer in some places — scrubbed the paint and the floors, and made rooms clean and in condition to be redecorated.

Care had to be taken in selecting papers and fittings to conform with the period, but from that maze has emerged this wonderful old house with only a $6500 mortgage on the property, and loyal members to carry on.

The rooms are filled with fine antiques, some loaned, some our own.  Cases of genuine antiques are ours, collections of cup plates, sandwich glass, tea pots, china, caps, old linen, pewter, and innumerable relics of older times.

To you, Children of the American Revolution, we will pass on all of this, to preserve and cherish.”